She really highlights two important pieces here - taking control of and building up a personal brand that positioned her the way she wanted to be received in her industry, but also leveraging her relationship to help her make the shift. Both really important tools for pretty much any career shift. Good article!
Check out the first part of Nicole’s story to see how launching a blog and personal brand helped her make the move from Social Media to Creative. Then, read on for the next steps that paved her way.
As a Social Media Associate who longed to become a Copywriter at my company, I did what anyone wanting to transition departments would do: I sat down with the head of the department for some encouragement and advice.
In the meeting, I was told that Copywriters at my agency weren’t hired unless they met specific criteria. If I didn’t have a degree from a copy portfolio school, I wasn’t good enough for the Creative Department. If I hadn’t worked in an agency for at least three years, I deserved dart-like glares for even considering a move. If I didn’t have working knowledge of Creative Suite software or a fierce understanding of the high-level framework of a responsive, interactive digital ecosystem, I might as well reach for a quill and write my career’s epitaph.
Oh, the sulkfest that followed.
Eventually, though, I stopped attending my own pity parties and took action. I knew I didn’t want to be in Social Media forever, and in order to work around the mandates laundry-listed in that Copywriter job description, something had to give. I needed a strategy.
So, I built and broadcasted a personal brand around my writing (read: started an awesome blog) and marketed the hell out of it. My goal: to change perceptions and turn Nicole the Social Media Associate into Nicole, Copywriter extraordinaire. My business objective: get the Group Creative Director to buy into me as a writer and pull me out of his shopping cart and into his department.
He did. (Cue simultaneous shimmy-dance heel-click.)
But getting there was like getting across the Atlantic in the early 1900s—it required thoughtful preparation, care, good spirits, and unbounded faith. Most importantly, it required people. My co-workers were instrumental in propelling me towards my dream, and my boss (mentor, life coach, idol) spearheaded the entire effort. And along the way, I learned the following: To transition out of one team and into another is to establish relationships with everyone. Here’s the story of how I internally networked into my full-time Copywriter pants.
Find a Mentor
Ellen Curtis was my boss and the head of the Social Media Department. And as far as bosses go, I struck gold. From the dawn of our professional relationship, she set my horizon on fire by encouraging me to express the aspirations, goals, and fears that hugged my career. She was approachable. She was transparent. She also happened to be a Copywriter-turned-Creative Director before entering the social media strategy world.
A woman of many talents, yes. A mind reader, no. In order for her to help me become the writer I wanted to be, she had to know that’s what I wanted. So, in every single one of our frequent check-ins, I told her the truth: I was working towards a career in copywriting.
Knowing that I was serious about pushing my passion, Ellen grabbed her pom-poms every time I came out in my blogger uniform. She believed in my personal brand and encouraged me to promote it, even if her support ultimately left her one team member short. But perhaps more importantly, she actually helped me carve a path from Social to Creative, putting me on writing projects and introducing me to Creative aces that, at my rank, were inaccessible. When a project manager needed a writer, she’d drop my name, and suddenly the requests came pouring in. Thanks to her advocacy, I became beanie-deep in headlines.
Socialize at Work
Before I shook any hands or kissed any babies, I went forth and cyber-stalked. I won’t admit to how many LinkedIn summaries I scanned while getting a feel for Copywriters across the country. And I most certainly won’t admit to how far back in Twitter time I went to see the meticulously crafted tweets written by Creatives within my company. But if one hour equates to one social media year, I easily spent a social century in research mode.
The benefit was worthwhile and two-fold. Through LinkedIn, I was able to identify what schools, side jobs, and random steps other Creatives in the industry took to get to where they are now, which gave me hope and peace of mind. I was surprised to see that no single path led to Copywriter status, and that people I admired and respected often had unconventional ways of ending up where I’d like to be.
Secondly, I focused on the home team—the internal Creatives with big titles, the people I wouldn’t normally connect with at the office. Using Twitter, I got a sense of what these higher-ups were all about, which gave me an enormous leg up when I ran into them at work. Some may call it creeping; I call it doing social due diligence.
Once I felt comfortable with their interests and social media styles, I showed that I was listening with timely retweets, replies, and favorites—any interaction that could put me on their radars. For example, I learned that the Creative Director of my agency’s largest account is a total Comic-Con and Star Wars geek who loves his kids and co-founded a super cool design inspiration app. When we met first time at a conference in Cannes, I diplomatically spun these tidbits into conversation. I spoke to his passions. I engaged him in conversations that suited his liking. Five days later, he was the one to offer me a Copywriter position in his department.
Yes, I was privy to that Creative Director’s tastes and interests, but more importantly, I made a good impression by showing genuine interest in conversation. To that point, when I connected with people at the office, I checked my agenda at the door, and I focused on making real connections every time.
My blog wasn’t giant. I wouldn’t even say it was well-known. But it didn’t need to have a massive following, it only needed to find its way into conversations at work. Then, once it made coffee talk, all I had to do was show up in the kitchen and be a nice person. Someone who others wanted to talk to and connect with.
Soon, I started getting to know people from all heights of the totem pole. I’d go on coffee dates to console a colleague going through hardship at home. I’d go sweat myself silly with co-workers at Body Attack classes. I’d bring treats because it’s Friday or write a sympathy card because Chloe’s dog was just put down. I was more than just a zombie body behind a computer screen.
In other words, I built relationships with my co-workers. Sure, my blog gave me a sizable portfolio of writing samples, but at the end of the day, managers hire likeable, agreeable people. People who have the support of their peers. People who are smart and get along well with others. Who are kind. Who are themselves.
By the time the ink dried on the paperwork that finalized my internal move, I realized that my writing alone didn’t win the hearts and minds of the higher-ups with the hiring power. The crowd did. Like centipede feet, they moved me along, dropping my name into important conversations, cheering me on from the sidelines, and rooting for my success. They built my case for me.
My blog, my writing, and my personal brand may have made my pivot from the Social Team to the Creative Team possible, but it was internal networking that sealed the deal.